Southern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Black Branch Barrens
Forest: Angelina National Forest
District: Angelina National Forest
Description: Black Branch Barrens is a high quality example of a Catahoula Formation (Miocene age) barrens woodland complex. Numerous edaphic and environmental factors associated with the Catahoula barrens interact to produce local conditions adverse to woody plant growth. Their shallow, nutrient poor soils, high aluminum content (hence low pH), and fluctuating extractable water suggest that these sites are distinguished by stressful environmental conditions. The natural prairie like openings are here referred to as barrens and are typically dominated by little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Nuttall’s rayless goldenrod (Bigelowia nuttallii), and Cladonia lichens. Attributes which distinguish barrens from surrounding vegetation include sparse cover with exposed soil, dwarfing, xerophytism, and the juxtaposition of mesic and xeric flora. This special habitat contains an enriched flora, unique in the east Texas pineywoods, with a number of West Gulf Coastal Plain endemics, ecotypes, morphological variants, and range disjunctions of plants which typically occur outside of the pineywoods region proper.
Wildflower Viewing: Many of the barrens plants are infrequent, have sporadic distributions, or are restricted to specialized habitats in southeast Texas and the post-oak belt of east-central Texas. Some of these include: Drummond’s sandwort (Arenaria drummondii), marshallia (Marshallia caespitosa), common least daisy (Chaetopappa asteroids), San Saba pinweed (Lechea san-sabeana), Nuttall milkvetch (Astragalus nuttallianus), western dandelion (Krigia occidentalis), Texas saxifrage (Saxifraga texana), smooth phacelia (Phacelia glabra), Texas sunnybells (Shoenolirion wrightii), yellow hedge-hyssop (Gratiola flava), flameflower (Talinum parviflorum), and slender gayfeather (Liatris tenuis). The Navasota’s ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes parksii), an endangered species, occurs in the well-stratified, old-growth post oak-black hickory woodlands surrounding these barrens.
Safety First: The area can be wet in the spring, with slippery soils, so rubber boots or at least hiking boots are advisable. Boots also provide some protection in the event of snakebite as pygmy rattlesnakes sometimes like to sun themselves on the exposed glauconite. In the unlikely event of snakebite, seek medical attention immediately and do not attempt to suck out or otherwise remove the venom. Ticks and chiggers will be active from early spring through the fall, so insect repellent sprayed on trouser cuffs, arms, neck and head is advisable. There is little shade in the barrens themselves. Be prepared for hot and humid weather starting in about May. Bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen and a hat.
Directions: Approximately 0.5 miles south of Post Oak Road and TX 63, along both sides of TX 63; or approximately 0.3 miles north of TX 63 and State Route 255 intersection. Jasper County.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, Angelina National Forest.
Closest Town: 1.2 air miles west of Ebenezer, Texas.